Matching Hebrew and Latin

This post describes how I have created matching Hebrew and Latin for my own font "Mike Hebrew".

I did not add this post to the "Creating a Merger of a Latin and a Non-Latin Font Style" because many of the replies did not deal with designing fonts. Furthermore don't want to be involved in criticizing other people's fonts, other people or to argue about history etc.

This design problem will be different for each kind of Hebrew font. If the Hebrew font is Frank Ruel then the solutions will be quite different to solutions that would be appropriate if the Hebrew font is Levenim. The is NO SINGLE SOLUTION.

What I write here only applies to matching the Hebrew and the Latin letters in my own "Mike Hebrew" font.
The early versions of this font did not have a matching set of Latin characters which caused two problems:

a) When Hebrew was displayed or printed, and it contained a few English words, numerals or even Western punctuation the resulting use of the my computer's default Western font was sometimes hideous.

b) On a page with columns of Hebrew and parallel English translation, the baselines of the English did not line up correctly with the Hebrew. Also the English usually dominated the page if the point size was the same.

It proved difficult to find matching Latin fonts to fix these problems so I developed "Mike Hebrew" with a set of Hebrew, Latin, numerals, punctuation, currency symbols and so on that would all match.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

What do I mean by "Matching Hebrew and Latin"?

First, lets clear out of the way, what it doesn't mean! I did not want to make changes to the Hebrew letters
to give them the style of a Western Alphabet, nor did I want to make changes to the Latin characters to give then a Hebrew appearance. Each would retain its identity.

The matching is achieved by balancing boldness, horizontal and vertical features and angularity.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Toning down the Latin characters

I had taken "Tuffy" as my starting point and transformed the Latin letters to be roughly the right size and boldness.

However this was not enough and I still had to make the characters a little less strident. This was done by making the stroke width of the Latin characters narrower than the stroke width of the Hebrew. The stroke width of the numerals was somewhat between these. However this wasn't enough!

I then changed the shape of some Latin glyphs to make them less dominating. For instance, as verticals are so dominating, I tilted some of them slightly. The tilt is just enough to weaken the appearance of the stroke. Another device was to choose a variant of the letters a, e, g, etc that would be less dominant (usually the script version). Also some of the horizontals can be tilted in A, B, E, F etc.

I also made the Hebrew fairly high indeed almost as high as the Latin uppercase.

Another way of reducing the difference in appearance between Latin and Hebrew is to increase the strength of the verticals in the Hebrew and reducing the strength of the horizontals. This goal is aided by making the Hebrew letters a bit narrower and taller.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Appearance of embedded Latin words, phrases, or short sentences in Hebrew text.

The design of "Mike Hebrew" is intended to have the Latin blend in an unobtrusive manner. A short run of Latin characters should not disturb the appearance of a page of Hebrew. The "toning down" of the Latin characters I have described above seems to solve this problem.

The rag-bag of characters such as currency, copyright, ampersand etc are designed to work with both English text and Hebrew text although in "Mike Hebrew" working well with Hebrew is given precedence.

Israelis often use Western punctuation such as comma, period, quotes etc with their Hebrew and the result can be hideous unless they are designed to match the Hebrew first and the Latin second.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Appearance of parallel texts.

A translation or a transliteration of the Hebrew, is by definition secondary in importance to the original Hebrew. The "toning down" of the Latin that I have described above goes a long way to achieving this also in appearance.

However there is still more to do and some changes to the Hebrew may be necessary.
A page of Hebrew and a page of Latin usually a quite different overall appearance. The Hebrew page appears as horizontal gray stripes with a fairly large horizontal space between the lines. In contrast, the Latin page looks a more uniform gray.

For "Mike Hebrew", the horizontal grey stripes are less obvious for a number of reasons.

a) The font does not have strong horizontals at top or bottom of the glyphs.
At the top, most of the "horizontals" are tilted so it's not clear exactly where the top of the line is. This effect is enhanced by the fact that the horizontals differ greatly in length.

b) The baseline is made less sharp by having various letters or parts of letters not quite reach the baseline or extend slightly below it. For example the legs of the Het are of different length. Additionally, in "Mike Hebrew" the letters often overlap, for instance the lower left of letters Bet, Caf, Nun, Ayin, Peh and Tsadeh may go underneath the following letter (to its left).

I should emphasize that all these considerations are for "Mike Hebrew" and a matching set of Latin for another Hebrew font could be quite different. However all of the design issues listed here would have to be considered.

gohebrew's picture

I like Mike Hebrew very much.

I don't think it matches the English at all, although it too is very good.

The Hebrew has many diagonals, and descenders. The Engish does not, though both are informal.

I would draw an English set with the Hebrew attributes, stroke widths, etc., much like the Hebrew. I suggest that the Hebrew letters should never touch. This is difficult with descenders. To achieve this, OpenType and Volt can be used, with many additional alternative glyphs, and ligatures. GOSUB can address these replacements automatically.

So, whenever a string of characters are entered at the keyboad, that string will be replaced or SUBstituted by a different group from the font.

brianskywalker's picture

This list of things I've compiled may help you:
(Sorry, it's missing a bibliography - I can put that together later.)

On designing Hebrew and Latin type
for simultaneous use:

1. Respect must be taken for the merits of the traditional forms of each script
2. There are two poles in which to take pairing Hebrew and Latin: First, is to try and make the the Hebrew and Latin as close as possible. Second, to try and contrast between the two as much as possible. The best method is probably somewhere along the axis between these poles where it is made to match the Latin but still provide contrast.
3. The foremost goal of a family containing both is to produce a similar color; however texture between scripts is both inherent and necessary for distinction.
4. Sharing proportions seems ideal, for example aligning the Hebrew body height with the Latin x-height, but in reality the best proportions for use with u&lc Latin is somewhere between the cap- and x-height. Extenders may want to follow similar measurements with the Latin extenders - but only if that is feasibly allowed by the proportions of the Latin glyphs and Hebrew body height.
5. Characteristics from Latin can successfully shared with Hebrew by using similar shapes of serifs and "pen marks" respectively, as will as similar terminals.
6. It should be noted that, when used with Latin lowercase only, the Hebrew body can successfully use the Latin's x-height. When used with uppercase, it should usually be scaled to cap-height.

Things to keep in mind when designing Hebrew fonts:

1. Hebrew does not sit on a baseline but rather hangs.
2. Hebrew can be better understood in the same way Latin can by categorizing the glyphs into rounded, square, and diagonal forms.
3. It can also be better understood by categorizing in terms of structure of joins: whether the roof connects to stems smoothly or with two connecting strokes.

Hebrew "Serif" or "Pen Mark"

According to hafont.com, a Hebrew word for the "serifs" is עוקץ, which, translated means barb, or sting. Because thed finishing marks are Hebrew, we should therefor use this Hebrew name—transliterated awkyts. Thus: Awkyts fonts and Sans-Awkyts fonts. Since sans does mean without, and many fonts are already referred to as "sans", continuing to use the term sans is best.

gohebrew's picture

An o-ketz is used long before hafont.com decided it was a good word for a serif.

First, hafont.com is no Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who defined much of modern Hebrew from its usage in ancient Hebrew. Eliezer made mistakes.

What is a serif? Many scholars belief that it was an area on a letter intended for ink to gather. I think that this opinion is lame, for many fonts have serifs that play an important part in the attractiveness of the entire design.

Only diagonal lines reach below the baseline. Most Hebrew fonts do not have diagonal lines; hence, most Hebrew fonts sit firmly on the baseline.

A good Hebrew font does not reach the x-height of the lowercase English letter, because then it will appear too small in comparison with the English font.

A good Hebrew font does not reach the x-height of the uppercase English letter either, because then it will appear too big in comparison with the English font.

Rather, a good Hebrew font will be below the x-height of the uppercase English letter, and below the x-height of the lowercase English letter, and the stroke widths should match.

brianskywalker's picture

>> An o-ketz is used long before hafont.com decided it was a good word for a serif.

Of course. But I had never seen it used anywhere before, so that is what I quoted.

>> A good Hebrew font does not reach the x-height of the lowercase English letter, because then it will appear too small in comparison with the English font.
>> A good Hebrew font does not reach the x-height of the uppercase English letter either, because then it will appear too big in comparison with the English font.

You must have misunderstood. I said:
4. Sharing proportions seems ideal, for example aligning the Hebrew body height with the Latin x-height, but in reality the best proportions for use with u&lc Latin is somewhere between the cap- and x-height. Extenders may want to follow similar measurements with the Latin extenders - but only if that is feasibly allowed by the proportions of the Latin glyphs and Hebrew body height.

What I meant was, for most cases, where the the text is in both upper- and lowercase, you should make the Hebrew body height somewhere between the cap- and x-height of the Latin. But for the rare case when the latin is in lowercase only, the Hebrew should align at the x-height optically. (Read: very slightly larger than x-height, to compensate for extenders.Likewise, when the latin is all-caps, then the hebrew should align to cap-height optically. Understand what I mean?

>> What is a serif? Many scholars belief that it was an area on a letter intended for ink to gather. I think that this opinion is lame, for many fonts have serifs that play an important part in the attractiveness of the entire design.

My understanding was that serifs where calligraphic finishes at the ends of strokes, at least in Latin designs. People speculate these originated from inscriptions in stone, where they were used sort of as a grid. Others point out these were probably first written on somehow by a scribe. Whatever the case, no one knows the true original purpose of serifs. Regardless, they serve a purpose for many fonts today.

gohebrew's picture

So, the height of the Hebrew is somewhere between the x-height of the lowercase and the cap-height of the uppercase, as you mention.

I propose that the distance of the height is determined by the width - (where the width of most of the Hebrew letters is wider, then their height is lower; where the width of most of the Hebrew letters is narrower, then their height is taller) - and the stroke width - (where the stroke width of the Hebrew letters is wider, then their height is lower; where the stroke width of the Hebrew letters is narrower, then their height is taller).

These two factors determine compatible appearance, the amount of text within a given area, and the matching 'color' of the text.

brianskywalker's picture

>> I propose that the distance of the height is determined by the width - (where the width of most of the Hebrew letters is wider, then their height is lower; where the width of most of the Hebrew letters is narrower, then their height is taller) - and the stroke width - (where the stroke width of the Hebrew letters is wider, then their height is lower; where the stroke width of the Hebrew letters is narrower, then their height is taller).

I think this makes a good deal of sense. Since I hadn't done any tests that far, I hadn't figured out where the overall width of the Hebrew would fit in. I also haven't gotten the horizontal proportions down, so that's also part of the reason.

John Hudson's picture

In general, I'm of the opinion that in harmonising different script one should focus on overall weight and proportion, with secondary attention to featural harmonisation only within the limits of the cultural conventions of the individual scripts, e.g. one should avoid trying to make Hebrew look like Latin or Latin look like Hebrew. That said, there are situations in which the overall context of a piece of lettering or typography admits of such things. The images below are from the Holocaust memorial at the Jewish cemetery in Prague. Within the overall architectural and graphic context of the memorial, the decision to write the Czech text with a Hebrew ductus makes good sense and is visually arresting:

gohebrew's picture

I agree that the width of the strokes is in deed important.

Unless the font design can alter this, as Boruch Gorkin did in his Arial Hebrew, it comes last.

If not, it is first.

brianskywalker's picture

I think the "sans" fonts, for the most part, follow different rules in Hebrew, because the idea is to appear monoline.

gohebrew's picture

Which different rules? About matching to English.

Sans looks bigger in any language. So, I would set the Hebrew lower, even if it is very narrow.

brianskywalker's picture

Well, I think Hebrew and Latin sans fonts can more easily match than their serif counterparts, because to make the fonts appear monoline, the horizontal strokes must be slightly thinner than vertical. So the Hebrew and Latin forms match more closely.

gohebrew's picture

I agree.

Sans here means usually mono-width of the strokes. David is not really mono-width.

Plus, Hebrew is vertical dominant, while Latin is horizontal. I think that you refer to this.

But Hebrew and Latin can be "matched", even where Hebrew is vertical dominant, and where Latin is horizontal dominant, by apply a well-known graphic art principal referred to as "color" - the overall color of the texts; meaning, the relationship between the black or filled in areas of the page, and the white spaces, the unfilled in areas of the page.

The goal is to create a balance or harmony between the black and white of the lines of type.

I say "lines of type" and not the entire page.

Why?

If it were the entire page, and the text had increased leading or line-spacing, then the Hebrew type (if matched to the Latin - as opposed to the Latin being matched to the Hebrew) would need wider widths and increased white space inside the letter strokes.

Altering the letter and word spacing would look wierd, and be incompatibe with the Latin.

gohebrew's picture

This counsel applies to mixing any Roman and non-Roman languages together, except Arabic and Farsi etc.

Typograph's picture

I have designed a hebrew font to work nicly with helvetica.
here is a sample
san serif fonts are easier to match

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

I have just returned from a trip and find all this dialog. While I am digesting it,
a quick comment on Typograph's Hebrew for Helvetica.

Some of the Hebrew letters seem to have little serifs on the top, particularly on
the aleph, ayin, tsadeh and tsadeh sofit, and the shin. Why did you feel it necessary
to add these short horizontals?

Mike

Typograph's picture

Hi Mike, how is your ruject progressing???
that is the featur of the typeface.
It is a very simple and clean typeface but highly legible.
This face is considered Sans Serif (some will reffer to it as SLAB, But i don't thing so.) the short horizontals makes the face mor readable.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Typograph
The font looks good when seen as a whole page. The short horizontals are less obvious.

You say "short horizontals make the face more readable" and that makes me think that the purpose if serifs is just that! My own opinion (maybe a widespread view) is that serif fonts are more readable than sans serif.

However when there is not too much text, sans serif fonts are better looking.
Mike

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

Here is a example of some English and Hebrew, side by side. The font is Tahoma.
There is a obvious imbalance is the shade of greyness of the two texts. Why didn't
the designer make the Hebrew more bold to match the English. Probably simply
because he or she wasn't asked to... but maybe was told to use the same stroke width.
Mike

brianskywalker's picture

Thanks for that example of not quite evenness! That's helpful for me. :)

I think Matthew Carter made the matching Hebrew for his Tahoma. It could have been someone else though.

quadibloc's picture

I was looking through the various Hebrew faces on MyFonts to find out if the glyph repertoire of Code Page 1255 was indeed typical. I noticed that - as for Roman fonts - there were many display faces, many sans-serif faces, many calligraphic faces... but not that many classic faces.

Looking at Frank Ruehl as displayed there, it seemed like that face showed its age, and gives a visual impression more like a Scotch Roman than Times Roman. So I thought to look through and see what there was that could be used instead of it.

Looking through hundreds of faces, I found these:

Hamuel 95
Kitra 77
LeBe
Mimi
Frenkel

Now, there were other ones also suitable for text use. I excluded Mugdar from consideration as I thought of it as specialized, like Optima. And not being a reader of Hebrew, I couldn't tell if Parshanut, Or Halevana or New Livorno might have been considered acceptable for standard text use, and so I erred on the side of caution and dropped them from the list.

And many other fine faces I excluded from consideration as being calligraphic in nature, although for a face to be calligraphic appears to be more normal in Hebrew typography than in Latin typography.

It is, of course, the people who live in Israel and use Hebrew who would know what aesthetic to apply to Hebrew typefaces, but I am curious as to whether my guess as to what looks ordinary like Frank Ruehl, but a bit cleaner and more modern than it, is correct.

Typograph's picture

these fonts Mimi, Frenkel, Mugdar, Parshanut are not very good type faces at all, they are very naive and poorly designed.
I don't think any of these woul'd realy fit for long amounts of text.

Real text fonts are very hard to come by and take much more work than in the fonts previously mentioned.

LIBI & New Livorno, are considered to be OTIIOT MEKOROT, don't know about standart text fonts.

Halevana, is a nice display font.

frome what i can see, Hamuel 95 & Kitra 77, can fit your definition

quadibloc's picture

I noticed the Schocken typeface mentioned in the annotated bibliography of Hebrew typesetting by Dr. Sivan Toledo as another example for my short list... and found that Franciska Baruch was its designer, thanks to a Google Books result. But she is not even mentioned on the web, except once on a genealogy web site, although this could simply be because I am using the wrong spelling of her name (as the one who commissioned the face is known as both Salman Schocken and Salmon Schocken...) - or that of course she is amply commemorated and famed on the Web, but only on Hebrew-language web sites.

The mention of her name claims that Schocken is based on Frank-Ruhl and Stam. I could see Frank-Ruhl and Meruba, but not Stam... unless the caption in the annotated bibliography is scrambled...

quadibloc's picture

Ah: if I spell her name "Franziska Baruch", then I see references to her.

quadibloc's picture

Looking on MyFonts, I see that Stam MF is similar to the face shown in the annotated bibliography.

On the other hand, in a Letraset catalogue I have, S'tam looks like a conventional Hebrew typeface - no little bulges on the vertical strokes, and the heavy strokes have rounded corners, not pointy ones - except that the contrast between thick and thin strokes is excessive.

Of course, S'tam and Stam might be two very different words in Hebrew (the ' may stand for an Aleph, after all) making these two unrelated typefaces.

On the other hand, the Meruba in the annotated bibliography is a conventional face; the one on MyFonts is a squared-off design, almost sans-serif (maybe more like an Egyptian?).

gohebrew's picture

There are a few typefaces called Stam, based upon one common ancient design.

One is basic, and the others have embellishments. The latter are used for titling. Until about 40 years ago, Stam was popular in Israel, as it preserved a traditional look.

Stam is an acronym for three ritual objects: Sefer Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzot, and often refers to the composition performed by Jewish ritual scribes in composing these objects.

The actual type design that they use is not Stam, but actually Ktav Stam, which is quite different.

Clearly, the design of Stam, many centuries ago, was modeled after Ktav Stam.

The ' after the S apparently is an allusion to its being an acronym, or has no meaning at all. Often, matters in the Letraset of Israel catalogue were made simply for legal reasons. I met the old owner in the mid eighties.

Letraset of Israel was notorious to producing popular designs with minor differences, and subtle name changes, to avoid payment of royalties.

I believe that this is why Henri Friedlaeder wanted to offer special insights, because I sent him a modest royalty check, as I felt it was the right to do. He liked that sincerity.

quadibloc's picture

I was looking at a Letraset catalog for North America, with only a handful of Hebrew type designs.

After learning about Frank-Rühl, though, now I've learned some more, and I realize that that is a specialized design, much as Scotch Roman or Ionic No. 5 is for the Latin alphabet, and instead, if I want a more generic design as a starting point - like Times Roman, Baskerville, or Century Expanded might be for the Latin alphabet - it is Vilna (or Romm, or Siddur), of which you yourself have done one revival, that I should be looking at.

quadibloc's picture

Here is a rough sketch of what Hebrew might look like if existing scripts for the language were used to give it upper and lower case, and italics, in imitation of Roman script, but without taking any letterforms from an external source:

The text used is from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The first sentence is normal, the second in italics. Note that the italics are, like Roman italics, sloped forwards in the direction of reading - and, thus, to the left, not to the right.

Michael Cunliffe Thompson's picture

quadiblock,
What on earth is the text at the top of image! Looks like sinaitic or phoenician!

Lack of capital letters makes it hard for less practiced readers to recognize proper names.

Here is a case of maybe deliberate ambiguity in a poem called Ahavnu Can by Yehuda Amichai:

In the middle line above the word hatikva (the hope) occurs in Hebrew but we don't know if it refers to the National Anthem because the is no capital letter with which to capitalize the word Hatikva.
Mike

brianskywalker's picture

> What on earth is the text at the top of image! Looks like sinaitic or phoenician!

That would be ancient Hebrew (for the most part). It of course could work, but it probably looks preposterous to modern eyes. You'd have to modify a lot so that it will have a structure closer to modern Hebrew.

quadibloc's picture

The illustration is crude, I admit. It was to illustrate that Hebrew does have, natively, the materials needed, if desired, to create a writing system similar to that of the Latin alphabet, where one has an upper case (modern square script - the Kaph at the beginning of both sentences), a lower case (ancient Semitic), and italics where the lower case (cursive) has a cursive quality. (The semi-cursive "Rashi" script could have been considered as well.)

One could do the same with Georgian, by using the current Mhedruli script as the basis for the cursive italic lower case, and the old Hutsuri script for everything else.

And Armenian already has an upper and lower case, and the cursive could be obtained from Armenian handwriting.

But Greek has a problem, it seems to me. The existing Greek lowercase is cursive already. A non-cursive Greek lower case could, I suppose, be derived from Cyrillic as a model.

brianskywalker's picture

Homogenizing all these alphabets sounds great in theory. And it would be extremely interesting. But no one ever said they need to be the same. And you have to ask if making them work the same and have all the same types of emphasis makes these languages no longer themselves. What I mean is, if Hebrew is Hebrew, let it be Hebrew. Your example does use only Hebrew, but from widely varying eras. I think native Hebrew speakers wont except it. At the same time, speakers of Latin-like languages might like it better. I think Hebrew cursive / italics would work, and, as it seems, sometimes Israeli newspapers and magazines do use computer generated slanted versions. But from what I understand, most people don't think cursive are formal enough for most jobs, although it's great for handwriting.

In my opinion, we should let Hebrew be Hebrew and English be English. At the same time improvements and developments come along, sometimes only as trends. So I think, yes, italic is feasible, but a bicameral alphabet ain't gonna happen for Hebrew. :)

quadibloc's picture

I do not dispute that; as some people have proposed more radical reforms of the Hebrew script, though, I wanted to show that if it were desired to give it the properties of Latin script, this could be done with its own materials, without the need for something so radical as the reform proposed by Hugh Schonfield.

brianskywalker's picture

Ah, so it's an if sort of thing. To tell the truth, if I had time, I probably would do something like you proposed, and maybe in a couple styles. It would be great exercise for the typographic mind. :) But maybe pointless otherwise. Though some time in the future someone might find it and think there was some sort of movement. :P

YaelKrieger's picture

Hi Guys,

Dont know if Im allowed to ask this question under this forum.. But Ill go ahead and try anyway.
I need a hebrew typeface that looks good with/ looks similar to Garamond italic.
I need for the navigational buttons in a website set in Garamond (see attached) with an equivalent website set in hebrew.

Id love a script hebrew (since it is less formal that the block hebrew) and something with low contrast and an italics slant.

Any chance you can help me out??

Thanks! :)

quadibloc's picture

For regular Garamond, at least, the only one that comes to mind is David.

JohniToney's picture

I had love a script hebrew. I am a Hebrew Typographer.

______________________

Legal Translation

hrant's picture

I'm sorry to have missed this thread when it was active.
I might try to revive it though. Yes, that is a threat. ;-)

hhp

brianskywalker's picture

I think the subject will come up again, though probably on a different thread, as I'm working a a Hebrew/Latin pair. :)

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